Brandon Ables - Former Presto Bando guitarist/vocalist is on stage with a new toy, a synthesizer guitar. He has some programmed drumbeats and still has has the intensity of his crazed vocal style to carry the way. Like Bob Mould, he is shooting for more electronics in his solo sound. Unlike Bob Mould (who is finally back to the norm), this actually works. Ables coaxes out unique sounds on virtually every song (I break now to apologize to myself for starting to write Ables is able to...). He pulls a few smiles out of me as always, and through his lyrics, shows off many more twists and turns beyond his singing mannerisms. I would not mind seeing him in a full band some day, but his solo set is far more than just a guy doing something with a lot of equipment. It is a successful vehicle to showcase some of the most unique songs and style in the DC area.
Brenda - This local quartet has a twin guitar line-up with three people adding to the vocals. The style is early David Byrne T-Heads with some occasional Antmusic. There is some pleasant jangle in the guitars with the occasional contrast of a heavily treated sound with a more normal guitar. They vary their style a bit from crazed to controlled in fairly subtle ways. I confess that I drifted more away from them the more they locked in to something catchy and predictable. But when they had a contrast to where the vocal lines were almost fighting the guitars, I felt they they really captured something interesting. This uneasy peace made for some exciting listening. I am not sure I would be in the majority in thinking this way, but this is hardly the first time for that confession. I will be curious as to what I think next time around.
North of Canada - I have enjoyed this local quintet a few times over the past year. They make a nice blend of pop and hard rock. They are the type of band that likely emits catchy songs in the studio, but cranks it up several notches on stage. They vary it around a bit in volume and tempo, but the vocals generally carry out clean melodic lines that work quite well amidst the powerful rhythm section and rocking guitars. The sound was good tonight and although I applaud the Velvet Lounge for being more predictable and tighter on start times, I still wish things could get going a bit earlier so crowds of 60 don't fall to 15-20 with the headliner going on at 11:00pm on a weeknight. Other clubs have this issue as well and it is a fairly tight window as you can't start them too early. But North of Canada put on a good set for those that stayed. And we got our moneys worth as my clock says I received two hours and four minutes of excellent and fun music for eight bucks. You can't beat that at the more tightly run bigger clubs.
Quote of the Night: From a fan to North of Canada... "Stop asking silly questions." Yes, they probably could work on their stage patter some, although not everyone is Robyn Hitchcock.